Left untreated, certain symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, such as heart palpitations or a slowed heart rate, can lead to feelings of dizziness or vertigo.

Feelings of dizziness and instability while standing are common symptoms associated with many different health conditions. About 2.6 million people in the United States visit hospitals with complaints of vertigo every year.

Certain thyroid disorders, if left untreated, may lead to symptoms such as heart palpitations or a slowed heart rate. These heart-related symptoms may cause dizziness or imbalance.

Your thyroid gland produces hormones that are responsible for regulating your metabolism (the process of turning food into energy to power your body), heart rate, and body temperature.

If your thyroid isn’t functioning as it should, there are a variety of different ways you may notice it.

This article takes a closer look at the symptoms and potential complications of thyroid disorders and their treatment.

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two types of thyroid disorders that can cause complications most likely to result in dizziness or balance problems.

Both conditions cause irregularities in the amount of thyroid hormone that’s produced and delivered into your bloodstream.

  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland is underactive and produces too few thyroid hormones.
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland is overactive and produces too many thyroid hormones.

What are thyroid hormones responsible for?

Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating your metabolism and the processes your metabolism affects. Changes in the quantities of these hormones can cause dizziness and lightheadedness and other symptoms.

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Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland releases too many thyroid hormones. Increased amounts of thyroid hormones can raise your heart rate. If you’re older than 60, too many thyroid hormones can increase your risk of developing atrial arrhythmia (irregular heart rate).

Too many thyroid hormones can also cause your heart to beat faster than it should. This is called tachycardia. If left untreated, tachycardia can cause lightheadedness.

Other complications from untreated hyperthyroidism can include:

  • osteoporosis and thinning bones
  • increased risk of blood clots and stroke
  • irregular menstrual cycle and fertility issues

Other symptoms caused by hyperthyroidism

While some symptoms of hyperthyroidism are visibly obvious, others can be subtle and hard to spot. Symptoms include:

  • weight loss despite an increased appetite
  • rapid heart rate, which can lead to dizziness if left untreated
  • nervousness
  • fatigue
  • shaky hands and muscle weakness
  • frequent bowel movements
  • bulging eyes (Graves’ disease)

In older adults, a loss of appetite and withdrawal from social interactions may also occur.

Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause an increase in your diastolic blood pressure. This is the pressure on your arteries when your heart is relaxed.

Around 30% of people with hypothyroidism experience increased diastolic blood pressure. High blood pressure (called hypertension) can lead to feelings of dizziness.

Other complications of untreated hypothyroidism can include:

  • developmental issues in a baby born to a birthing parent with untreated hypothyroidism
  • trouble conceiving, as hypothyroidism can affect ovulation
  • depression
  • myxedema, or severe and untreated hypothyroidism

Other symptoms caused by hypothyroidism

Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary between individuals. The severity of your condition can also impact how your symptoms present. Early symptoms can be weight gain and tiredness. These are common regardless of age or sex.

The most common symptoms include:

  • constipation
  • a puffy face
  • hair loss
  • slowed heart rate, which can lead to feeling dizzy if left untreated
  • feeling cold
  • dry skin
  • brittle nails
  • hair loss
  • thinning hair
  • muscle stiffness
  • joint pain
  • impaired memory

As your thyroid slows, more symptoms gradually appear. This is why hypothyroidism can go undiagnosed for years. If you experience more than one of the above symptoms and suspect you may have a thyroid issue, talk with a doctor or healthcare professional.

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, if left untreated, may lead to imbalance issues

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland. The condition can cause damage to your peripheral vestibular organ, a structure in your inner ear that’s responsible for regulating balance.

Damage to this organ can result in short-term (30-second) bouts of dizziness, particularly when you rise from a sitting or lying down position (paroxysmal positional vertigo).

More research is needed to understand the relationship between autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) and peripheral vertigo.

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Any issues of dizziness or imbalance caused by untreated complications of thyroid disorders are typically resolved with treatment.

Treating hyperthyroidism

Treatments for hyperthyroidism work by reducing the number of hormones produced by your thyroid gland. Treatment options include:

  • Antithyroid medications: These drugs prevent your thyroid gland from making hormones. A doctor may prescribe methimazole or propylthiouracil. They’re safe for adults and children, as well as people who are pregnant.
  • Radioactive iodine therapy: This effective, one-time treatment destroys the cells in your thyroid gland that produce thyroid hormones. Radioactive iodine can be taken in pill or liquid form. Most people who have radioactive iodine treatment go on to develop hypothyroidism, which is easier to treat than hyperthyroidism. Treating hypothyroidism simply involves taking an ongoing, daily thyroid supplement tablet.
  • Surgery: Removal of your thyroid gland can return high hormone levels to standard levels. After this surgery, if your whole gland is removed, a common side effect is the development of hypothyroidism. This is easier to treat than hyperthyroidism.

When discussing your treatment options with a doctor, be sure to share your medical history as well as any medications you’re currently taking.

Treating hypothyroidism

Medications can alleviate symptoms of hypothyroidism. Levothyroxine is the medication used by doctors to balance your hormones. It’s a synthetic version of the T4 hormone. It mimics T4’s function and can help return your hormones to recommended levels.

It may be several weeks before your hormones balance. Once they have, your symptoms should go away or be reduced to a manageable level.

Talk with a doctor if you notice any symptoms of weight gain, temperature sensitivity, or depression.

A doctor will use blood tests to monitor your thyroid hormone levels and may adjust your dose according to the results.

Can thyroid medications cause balance issues?

The medication levothyroxine can sometimes cause dizziness and blurred vision. If this occurs, talk with a doctor. They may be able to adjust your dose and reduce side effects.

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If you suspect your thyroid levels are either too high or too low, a doctor will conduct a physical exam and check your medical history. They’ll also check for physical symptoms such as dry skin and altered heart rate.

A blood test is the most accurate way to test for a thyroid condition. During this test, the quantity of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) indicates the function of your thyroid gland.

  • Hypothyroidism: If your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones, your levels of TSH will be high.
  • Hyperthyroidism: If your thyroid is producing too many hormones, your TSH levels will be low.
Thyroid conditionTSHT4T3
Hyperthyroidism (untreated)lowhighhigh
Hypothyroidism (untreated)highlowlow, or normal

Dizziness and feelings of imbalance may be caused by untreated complications of thyroid disorders such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are both treatable. Symptoms will diminish or go away entirely once your thyroid hormone levels are back within a standard range.

It’s worth noting that medications for hypothyroidism may also cause dizziness. If this is the case, talk with a doctor. They can adjust your dose levels as needed.